Alternate readings: Matthew 8:1-4; Luke 1:57-66,80

Luke 15:3-7

3 So he told them this parable: 4 "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.' 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Meditation: Jesus' heart of love and compassion is most clearly revealed in the way he sought out sinners and outcasts of society. No one was excluded from his gracious presence unless they chose to stay away out of jealousy or mistrust. The scribes and Pharisees took great offense at Jesus because he freely associated with sinners and treated them graciously. The Pharisees had strict regulations about how they were to keep away from sinners, lest they incur defilement. They were not to entrust money to them or have any business dealings with them, nor trust them with a secret, nor entrust orphans to their care, nor accompany them on a journey, nor give their daughter in marriage to any of their sons, nor invite them as guests or be their guests. They were shocked with the way in which Jesus freely received sinners and ate with them. Sinners, nonetheless, were drawn to Jesus to hear him speak about the mercy of God. Jesus characteristically answered the Pharisees' charge with a parable or lesson drawn from everyday life.

What does Jesus' story about a lost sheep tell us about God and his kingdom? Shepherds normally counted their sheep at the end of the day to make sure all were accounted for. Since sheep by their very nature are very social, an isolated sheep can quickly become bewildered and even neurotic. The shepherd's grief and anxiety is turned to joy when he finds the lost sheep and restores it to the fold. The shepherd searches until what he has lost is found. His persistence pays off. He instinctively shares his joy with the whole community. The poor are particularly good at sharing in one anothers' sorrows and joys. What was new in Jesus' teaching was the insistence that sinners must be sought out and not merely mourned for. God does not rejoice in the loss of anyone, but desires that all be saved and restored to fellowship with him. That is why the whole community of heaven rejoices when one sinner is found and restored to fellowship with God. Seekers of the lost are much needed today. Do you persistently pray and seek after those you know who have lost their way to God?

Lord Jesus, let your light dispel the darkness that what is lost may be found and restored. Let your light shine through me that others may see your truth and love and find hope and peace in you. May I never doubt your love nor take for granted the mercy you have shown to me. Fill me with your transforming love that I may be merciful as you are merciful.

Psalm 23:1-6

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;
2 he makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters;
3 he restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: Jesus is Son of David and Son of God, by Cyril of Alexandria, 375-444 A.D.

"We also will ask the Pharisees of today a similar question. They deny that he who was born of the holy Virgin is very Son of God the Father and himself also God. They also divide the one Christ into two sons. Let these people explain to us how David's Son is his Lord, not so much as to human lordship as divine. To sit at the right hand of the Father is the assurance and pledge of supreme glory. Those who share the same throne are equal also in dignity, and those who are crowned with equal honors are understood of course to be equal in nature. To sit by God can signify nothing else than sovereign authority. The throne declares to us that Christ possesses power over everything and supremacy by right of his substance. How is the Son of David David's Lord, seated at the right hand of God the Father and on the throne of Deity? Is it not altogether according to the unerring word of the mystery that the Word as God sprung from the very substance of God the Father? Being in his likeness and equal with him, he became flesh. He became man, perfectly and yet without departing from the incomparable excellence of the divine dignities. He continued in that state in which he had always been. He still was God, although he became flesh and in form like us. He is David's Lord therefore according to that which belongs to his divine glory, nature and sovereignty. He is his son according to the flesh." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON LUKE, HOMILY 137.52)